After dropping its season opener to Mishawaka at the end of November, the Tippecanoe Valley boys basketball team has responded by winning its last five games. The most recent of which came on Friday night when the Vikings handed Whitko a 56-42 loss at Rita Price Simpson Court in both teams’ Three Rivers Conference opener.

The Vikings took control of the game from the opening tip and kept their foot on the gas for the rest of the game. The home team began the game on a 10-0 run with all points being scored by seniors Tayde Kiser and Nolan Cumberland. Whether it was down low in the paint or outside at the perimeter, the Vikings two leading scorers had no trouble getting shots to fall with frequency.

“I think both of those guys could get 10 more points a game if they didn’t look to get their teammates involved as much as they do,” Tippecanoe Valley head coach Joe Luce said. “Tayde is guarding the other team’s best player every night and Nolan is always looking for ways to attack.”

The successes didn’t just come on both ends. Tippy Valley made life incredibly difficult for the Wildcats with tenacious defense on the other side of the court. On most possessions in the first half, Whitko struggled to get a shot up with two and sometimes three Valley defenders pressuring ball handlers the second they received the rock. Eventually the run was put to a stop five minutes into the game by Wildcat senior Brent Bowers, who would go on to score Whitko’s first five points of the night.

“We got it going with the full court pressure, sped up the game a bit and got them to play at a pace they weren’t comfortable with,” Luce said. “We wanted to play as fast as we could and it worked out well.”

The second quarter would see more successes from the Wildcats, especially on the defensive side. Now trailing by single digits, Whitko was able to keep the game close for a majority of the period. Unfortunately for the visitors, the offense remained stagnant. The Vikings would extend the lead once again at the end of the half, with Cumberland hitting a long two at the buzzer to put his team up 14 at the break. Cumberland finished the first half with 14 points and the game with 18.

The Third quarter began with Whitko junior Kyler Krull and Valley senior Cooper Walls trading threes. After being held to just five points in the first half, Krull, the Wildcats leading scorer, did his best to take over in the second. Krull hit his first three shots of the second half, all from deep, to try and will his team back into the game. He’d end his night with a game-high 23 points.

“He is a monster. I don’t think anybody could tell me that he’s not a Division I player,” Luce said. “He’s the toughest kid we’ve had to guard against this season, no disrespect to anybody else.”

The offense was now working for Whitko, but the defense left something to be desired. Even with Krull and other Wildcat players finally starting to hit their shots, the visitors could not string together enough stops to get back into the game. Kiser added onto a successful first half by getting a few more shots to fall in the third. He’d finish his night with 18. After three quarters, Tippecanoe Valley’s lead had been extended to 17.

Not much action went down in the fourth quarter with the Vikings firmly in control, as both teams traded possessions with not a whole lot to report. Bowers (14 points) would hit a couple more shots to get into double digits and by the time the final minutes came around, both benches had been emptied with junior varsity players.

The 5-1 Vikings host Peru Saturday evening while the 1-6 Wildcats will look to snap a three-game skid at Maconaquah Tuesday.

“I’m interested to see how we come back tomorrow when we’re a little tired,” Luce said. “We might be a step slow but I want to see if we are where we need to be mentally to get it done.”